Vince Gray: From No Way to No Comment
The more serious the federal investigation into Mayor Vince Gray's mayoral campaign becomes, the less Hizzoner has to say.
Observe Gray's response to the Post's A1 story today laying out how Gray pal Vernon Hawkins appeared to be running an off-the-books campaign. "Gray declined to answer specific questions about the campaign allegations, citing the ongoing investigation," notes the Post. Gray dittoed the no comment today when asked by Fox5.
What a change a juicy story makes.
Rewind to a few weeks ago, after the homes and offices of D.C. Medicaid contractor and prolific campaign contributor Jeffrey Thompson were raided. Back then, Gray was pretty talkative in defending his campaign's honor, saying: "So as I look back at my own involvement, it was a lot of activity, and we did it with the utmost integrity."
Rewind even further to just over a year ago, when the Post got the ball rolling by airing the accusations of wrongdoing by minor mayoral candidate Sulaimon Brown. Rather than today's terse no-comment, Gray gave a forceful denial. From the Post:
"Was there a quid pro quo here? Did we ask him to do something on behalf of my candidacy, and did we give him something? The answer is unequivocally no," said Gray, who added that he was not aware of any payments to Brown by campaign aides. "I want to make sure there's no sunshine here. I didn't ask anybody to do it. I didn't tell anybody to do it. I didn't authorize anybody to do it."
Gray even held a news conference the Sunday evening after that Post story came out, assembling TV cameras in order to deny the horrible things Brown was saying. So far today, LL's not gotten any invite from Team Gray to dicuss l'affaire Hawkins at an impromptu Wilson Building news conference.
What does the change in press strategy mean? One explanation could involve a change in just who's influencing the mayor's media decisions. Typically, political handlers urge their clients to get out in front of stories, reasoning that the public might assume a pol has something to hide when he declines comment. On the other hand, lawyers generally advise clients to say as little as possible, reasoning that errant language could irritate prosecutors or jurors.
Given the apparently serious turn in the federal investigation, clamming up is probably a sound legal strategy. But it's not one that suggests city politics will be back to normal any time soon.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery